FIRE chiefs have said they will be taking action to combat the rising level of sickness absence in the service.

A report to the Dorset Fire Authority states that the number of shifts lost due to sickness in fulltime uniformed staff has gone up from just over two days per person in the first quarter of the financial year to nearly three-and-a-half days in the second quarter.

The figure for all staff shows a similar picture, with the level rising from around two days in the first quarter to nearly three days in the second.

This level of sickness absence would threaten the end of year target of seven days per person.

Chief Fire Officer Darran Gunter said surveillance would be used when necessary to tackle illegitimate absences.

He said: “Regrettably we have a number of individuals who have life-changing illnesses which is causing the figures to appear higher than they otherwise would.

“We will of course continue to support those individuals and their families. However if we find anybody illegitimately sick we will take legal action.

“I make no apology about this and we will undertake surveillance to achieve this if the situation is appropriate.”

The report said there were currently 14 cases of long term absence, which are all being closely monitored.